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New details about fatal Unalaska plane crash released Wednesday

 Courtesy Victor Weaver
Courtesy Victor Weaver (KTUU)
Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 4:26 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The harnesses of a wheel speed transducer on a Saab 2000 that crashed at the Unalaska airport were incorrectly installed, according to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Wednesday, NTSB released a docket with 37 items, some with thousands of pages, detailing what happened on Oct. 17, 2019, when the PenAir flight crashed in Unalaska, resulting in the death of a 38-year-old man from Washington and injuring nine other passengers on board.

In the latest documents, the NTSB says a harness that should have been routed to the second wheel was improperly installed, while the harness on the right gear wire was correctly installed.

The team investigating the crash contacted the wire manufacture, Heroux Devtek, which has since opened an investigation into the legibility of harness labels and a quality alert ensuring harnesses for the Saab 2000 are correctly installed.

NTSB has not released a final probable cause for the accident but describes how the first officer found a “worn (”flat”) spot on the left outboard main landing gear” during the preflight inspection, the documents say. No further action was taken after the worn area was noted and the flight departed that afternoon.

When approaching the runway, the pilot said he could see “just fine” and went to turn off the engine anti-ice switches. When he did this, the report states the plane “got out of position” and became unstable. The first officer told investigators that the plane became destabilized and so they decided to conduct a go-around after the flight went off course.

As they prepared to land, they faced 30-knot winds, according to a weather observer log from the day. When the pilot landed, the crew said the plane was braking as usual but then the plane stopped decelerating at normal rates. The captain told investigators he applied “maximum pressure on their brakes” but realized the plane would hit the end of the runway. The crew decided to steer the plane to the right where it overran the runway and eventually crashed into a rock barrier between the runway and Dutch Harbor.

In a preliminary investigation of the crash, NTSB said the pilot only had 101 hours of experience with a Saab 2000, and the first officer had fewer total flight hours, with only 147 in a Saab 2000.

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